MaXXXine (2024)
July 5, 2024 3:40 AM - Subscribe

In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx finally gets her big break. But as a mysterious killer stalks the starlets of Hollywood, a trail of blood threatens to reveal her sinister past.

I went to the late night early preview at my local indie cinema last night.

Ti West and Mia Goth complete the X trilogy; I will add my comment about the movie (which will include spoilers) in the comments.
posted by Kitteh (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

After seeing the double feature of X & Pearl at the same theater on Monday night in preparation for this, I did call the Big Bad of the final movie. Surprise, surprise! It's her insane televangelist dad!

Anyway, the movie, imho, does capture that sleazy 1980s erotic thriller feel, complete with saxophone-heavy score and every exterior shot evoking serious smog Los Angeles. (It looks hazy to me, like you know it's hot and the air ain't so great for breathing.) West uses many homages to classic films and film directors--Chinatown, Brian De Palma movies, Hitchcock--as well as a number of fun little Easter eggs for the viewers of X/Pearl.

Mia Goth doesn't disappoint again in her role. Despite her character's clear PTSD, this is a role that feels real and lived in. Initially I was irritated how at how thinly sketched the supporting roles are--especially of Halsey (the musician) and the other sex worker whose name I don't remember--but then honestly? That feels true to the aesthetic and vibe they were working with. Ask me if any of the supporting characters in a 1980s erotic thriller would be more substantial and I would say no.

The practical effects team had a ball (heh heh) here; in fact, there's a graphic sequence in an early point in the film that I fully expect men to be upset about. I will say I disliked the fact that the white women are killed offscreen, but the sole gay black male character gets a very visceral murder that made me uncomfortable to watch. Moses Sumney was a delight in the scenes he was in, but I wish they hadn't been so brutal with his demise.

Kevin Bacon is clearly relishing his villainous role in his white seersucker suit and OTT "Cajun" accent. Honestly, his death was the most fun. Giancarlo Esposito was also a delight; his wig needed its own credit, though. (In fact, his darkly comedic scene involving Kevin Bacon was my fave.) Elizabeth DeBicki is another standout to me; she calls Maxine "a classic Hitchcock blonde", but her icy regal nearly Grace Kelly exterior is a better example of that. Christ, that woman is tall. Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan are fine, but their jaded 80s detective roles felt more like box-ticking than necessary to the plot.

The Big Bad's plan feels a little silly to me so the denouement of that fell flat. The ending is fine but it doesn't quite stick the landing. After sleeping on it, I think the ending is more realistic than fully triumphant, so maybe that's where I'm having the issue? Anyway, well worth seeing!

Final ranking:

1) Pearl
2) X
3) MaXXXine
posted by Kitteh at 6:30 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]

I worked on this!
posted by Ideefixe at 7:28 AM on July 5 [19 favorites]

Ideefixe, that's so cool! What did you do, if you don't mind my asking?
posted by Kitteh at 7:29 AM on July 5

I'm sad to say I didn't dig it, despite really liking X and Pearl (and I think I'm in the vast minority that after seeing them both back to back, I slightly prefer X).

It just didn't hang together for me. The "loving pastiche of an '80s erotic thriller" element was spot on and artfully done, but, I mean, we already have good '80s thrillers. Most of them came out in the '80s. So it's a bit like seeing somebody lovingly recreate an Atari 2600 game using modern tools -- interesting, I appreciate the craft, but it's not necessary other than as a cool party trick.

Tonally, it was all over the map (admittedly also a feature of most '80s thrillers, but this is an area where I think West could have elevated it). I didn't know if it was a horror movie, a thriller, or at times a comedy. The characters seem either completely one-dimensional or really weirdly motivated. Like, that is a hell of an agent who will just car-crush people on your say-so. That's weird, man!

The plot was... gibberish? There's definitely a Ti West thing of a final-act reveal of people having suddenly revealed plots and motivations, all the way back to House of the Devil, but Preacher Dad's whole deal made absolutely no sense. He was going to make a fake exorcism documentary supported by religious acolytes who are all carrying serious firepower under their robes and are motivated by having kids who are in the film business but also he's going to see his daughter doing peep shows and sending her VHS tapes of her unreleased-because-murder porn work and he's killing porn actresses, okay, but also murders a black gay video store employee why? What? It didn't make a lick o' sense.

Finally, while I respect the "trilogy" and the cool X-to-Pearl transition from MIa Goth playing Old Pearl to playing Young Pearl, the entire flow of the trilogy is:

- Singularly motivated porn actress hellbent on being a star escapes massacre, with the catchphrase "I will not accept a life I do not deserve" and periodically showing a kind of psychotic disassociation and single-mindedness

- Back in time, a woman who looks exactly like her is psychotic, also says a lot of "I will not accept a life I do not deserve" stuff, is equally hellbent on being a star, and psychotically psychoes a bunch of non-psychos in her psycho quest to become a famous person.

- Back to the 'present,' and the woman who looks identical to the psychotic woman in the second movie and says remarkably similar things all the time and is equally focused on being a star is not psychotic, but we've kind of been trained by the second movie to think that there's some lineage thing happening, if not an overt connection, so the underlying expectation in Maxxxine is that Maxine is violently crazy, but she's not, as this is a continuation of the not-crazy character from X.

Which... maybe other people didn't have this hang-up, but I really found it hard to keep that straight in my head. To watch Maxxxine you have to kind of forget Pearl in a lot of important ways, and re-disassociate the two characters that West put a lot of work into explicitly associating in the X-Pearl duology. Which is a lot of work! I feel like with one step back and thinking about how all this would work as a trilogy, there could have been a really strong and artful tie of Maxine and Pearl as complements, or contrasts, but it's all kind of half-in half-out in terms of how they overlap, which I feel just made me work really hard as a viewer for no particular benefit.

I hope I'm not yucking anyone's yum; it was artfully made, fun in parts, and I can certainly see why people would like it, but I bounced off it hard. Not my bag.
posted by Shepherd at 5:59 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]

I loved it but I understand all your points here, Shepherd. I was expecting a lot more but somehow I didn't feel disappointed at all.

I guess I can't really explain my love for it other than I love the Donna Wilkes movie Angel, and I've really been grooving hard lately on movies made by people who 1) are masters of the art of filmmaking and 2) actually seem to love movies.

I'm usually annoyed by period hit-heavy soundtracks and winks to other films, but that's when a filmmaker relies on those things as cheats when they haven't adequately conveyed a mood of their own. And I think Ti West is like a really gifted music producer who knows how to use samples when creating his own thing.

At the very least, it felt like a summer film to me.
posted by queensissy at 10:27 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]

X and Pearl were of no interest to me, but I guess the Maxxxine trailer spoke to my Gen X-itude. The ending got too goofy for me, but I enjoyed it up to then, and finally I get why some people keep pushing Mia Goth.

also he's going to see his daughter doing peep shows and sending her VHS tapes of her unreleased-because-murder porn work and he's killing porn actresses, okay, but also murders a black gay video store employee why

What do you think a person like that thinks of queer people, especially queer, um, "colored" people?
posted by praemunire at 9:43 AM on July 13

Pretty sure it wasn’t Maxine in the peep show—I think it was her friend. Maxine was waiting for her outside after her shift, and the friend grabbed the hot dog before heading up to the party where she became one of the victims.

The preacher dad killed her, the other actress Maxine shared the dressing room with, the video store guy, and the original Puritan actress all because they were connected to Maxine. They made them look like the Night Stalker killings, which were also going on at the time but were unrelated.

Honestly I really liked it, along with X and Pearl.

It was pretty obvious it was her dad who hired Kevin Bacon (for lack of any likely alternatives), but for a while I thought maybe there would be a separate thread where the Night Stalker plot line collided with that one for an extra level of craziness in the last act.
posted by Pryde at 5:04 PM on July 13

They made them look like the Night Stalker killings

Not the video-store friend, though. That was just some sick-fuckery punishment for "deviance." I think.
posted by praemunire at 1:11 PM on July 14

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